There is a tendency to minimize and keep secrets when painful things are going on. We all do it. Big secrets. Little secrets. There are many reasons why we deny or don’t tell the truth. We’ve learned that people don’t really want to know, or, at least, we believe that they don’t. So, when people ask how we are we just smile and say, “Fine.”
I’ve made this a lifestyle. I haven’t been behaving like a martyr. I just really believed that I could handle it all, and I didn’t realize the depth of the issues at hand. I wasn’t sure that there was really anything to handle. I really did believe I was fine! I didn’t discern how powerful my husband’s behavior actually was and how perceptive my children were. Kids don’t miss much, and I know that. I was a kid once. I didn’t miss much either. I was trying to make sure that everyone was okay. I wanted everyone else to have what they needed. I thought that I had a partner who had my back. I think that he thinks he does, but my children don’t. What do I believe is true?
When you grow up with extreme intensity, your “normal meter” is often skewed or even broken. Abnormal behaviors are normalized and normal behavior is labeled as abnormal. Healthy expectations are labeled as ‘too high’ and having expectations altogether often becomes dangerous. This doesn’t happen overnight. There is a slow creep to this dynamic as well as a cycle. It’s tempting to ask, “Why did you marry someone like that?” Ask anyone in a relationship with an avoidant personality what their spouse was like before the wedding and they’ll tell you one thing: s/he was amazing before we got married. The personality changes come after the honeymoon.
The good news here? Remember what I said about those mental health professionals? Well, Eadaoin sees her therapist every Monday, and yesterday she talked about her high anxiety response when discussing her relationship with her father at her psychiatry appointment. Her therapist listened carefully, and then asked if she could speak with me alone. I thought she wanted to discuss Eadaoin.
Nope. She wanted to talk to me. About me. She didn’t hold back. She wanted me to be honest. Was I okay? What was the truth? I just received a serious diagnosis. I have a child with a serious mental health diagnosis. I have Eadaoin. I have another child with an autism spectrum diagnosis. I have another daughter entering her senior year. I have no family. How much more could I expect myself to handle? Well, that was surprising.
She insisted that I get myself back into therapy. She’s working on a referral. She’s not taking no for an answer. Then, she turned the topic to my husband. She’s not letting it go. He needs help. What he’s doing isn’t okay. It needs to stop. She’s brainstorming.
So, I told the truth. I told a professional the truth. I’m not sitting on my hands. I’m not doing nothing. I’m doing something. An ultimatum is coming soon, I think. If I don’t take action, then nothing will change. He will have to go to a psychiatrist. He will have to go to individual therapy. We will both have to go to marital therapy. I know that he’s afraid because he fears that I will wipe the floor with him. I find this both amusing and sad. Yes, I could wipe the floor with him in a therapy session. He’s spent the last nineteen years treating our family as an option. To know me, however, is to know that I would never do that. I have never once attacked his character or personhood. That’s his game. Not mine.
I will be honest. I wanted to cry today, but now is not the time. Now is the time for action and getting all the ducks in a row. I almost feel bad for him. Almost. Change is hard. Being held to account by your wife, your daughters, and a community of mental health professionals will be shocking.
It’s time though. One can only avoid growing up for so long. Eventually, one has to leave Neverland. I didn’t dream of marrying Peter Pan after all. I wanted Mr. Darcy. Okay, okay, or the Dread Pirate Roberts. But now, I’ll settle for a healthy adult who wants to be here. Alright, I’ll admit it. I don’t want to be with Mr. Collins either (tip of the hat to Pride and Prejudice).
It’s good. It’s good to know that you’re not alone, isn’t it? And one’s humor is still intact.
Can we say that I’ll settle for Mr. Emerson? (thank you E.M Forster for giving me Mr. Emerson and Room with A View. I survived adolescence because of that book. Well, and The Princess Bride) Maybe I need another grand story to get me through this time, too.
O Jamie Fraser, I hear you calling my name…(Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series)
Thank you, dear readers, for putting up with me. That’s all I can say.